Elsey National Park
Elsey National Park
Nature & Wildlife Areas • Parks
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Elsey National Park has warm, crystal-clear pools for swimmers, long stretches of river for canoers and anglers and scenic walking tracks and historic sites for landlubbers.
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  • Xanerin
    Alice Springs, Australia1,481 contributions
    Congratulations Rangers
    Thank you to Rangers and staff for the amazing upkeep of this beautiful national park. Well kept signage, clean toilets, great easy to follow tracks. I know we sometimes take all this for granted, but it is really appreciated.
    Traveled as a couple
    Written June 8, 2020
  • blackeldo
    Kiama, Australia2,203 contributions
    A Must See?
    WELL NO, NOTHING IS A MUST WHEN HOLIDAYING - BUT IF I WAS MOTORING THRU ON HWY 1 I WOULD MAKE A POINT OF CALLING IN – THE THERMAL POOL/SPRINGS ARE TOTALLY EXCELLENT. AND FOR THOSE SEEKING A PLEASANT PLACE TO STAY A FEW DAYS, EACH POOL HAS SOME GOOD NEARBY ACCOMMODATION. Nothing like a nice soak in a gorgeous pool or creek after hours of monotonous driving – and ELSEY’s venues have warmish** water, which is just the thing for aching backs and joints. Some fans say the water has medicinal/restorative qualities – well we aint talking LOURDES, trendsetters, but people are going to leave feeling a lot better than on arrival. Fed by artesian springs, the water is a constant 34 degrees and gets its green-turquoise colour and sparkling cleanliness from many thousand years of filtering thru the limestone aquifers of the GREAT AUSTRALIAN ARTESIAN BASIN . The water you soak in may have fallen as rain thousands of kms away in central-east Queensland long before PLATO moved to PAROS. The heat is natural (it gets hot underground – go down a coal mine for proof) - not come from any seismic activity like say, New Zealand’s ROTORUA. **warmish water on a hot day? – well a liquid 32-34C feels very refreshing when it is an ambient 40C. And you don’t have to divert too far off the main drag to access these spots – BITTER SPRINGS is 3km down a good side road, MATARANKA THERMAL POOL 7km. WHICH IS BETTER? Um…that’s a tough one, they are both very attractive places. But I’m thinking for the CASUAL PASSING TRAVELER the BITTER SPRINGS gets the nod. For PEOPLE WHO WANT TO STAY OVER – MATARANKA THERMAL POOL. Of course, you should be the judge. Maybe my list of each place’s ADVANTAGES below will help: BITTER SPRINGS ADVANTAGES -MORE NATURAL: the THERMAL POOL has been concreted at the sides although cleverly – it looks very natural, whereas BITTER SPRINGS is a natural watercourse. Its only improvements are a couple of viewing and sitting platforms and a set of stairs which allow exit after drifting down stream. Both are gorgeous locations, but I thought BITTER SPRINGS was a step up. -CONSIDERABLY LONGER: it’s possible to drift over 100 meters down-stream with the current (how strong is the current? Well I could swim against it reasonably well – then again I swim laps for fitness – on the other hand I’m 71). Following advice I took a diving face mask – the super clear water and creepy underwater vegetation plus the occasional turtle reminded me of those documentaries of underwater EVERGLADES in Florida. This area is croc free too – at least the dangerous salt water muggers. I didn’t see any of the shy fresh water crocs. MATARANKA THERMAL POOL is more compact at about 30/40mx10m -CAN HOST MORE PEOPLE – the compact THERMAL POOL would start to feel a bit too cosy with over 50 soakers; BITTER SPRINGS could take more than twice. No problem for me in early low season – each place had a max of a dozen, but these places apparently are VERY popular in high season. Particularly MATARANKA THERMAL POOL. -LESS DIVERSION OFF THE HIGHWAY : 3km vrs 7. The walk from each carpark (free/good size) is about the same – 150-200m -CLOSER TO MATARANKA TOWN: 3km vrs 8. Not that MATARANKA town has much to offer. However you may have decided to stay in one of the few motels/cabin places. MATARANKA THERMAL POOL ADVANTAGES -BETTER SURROUNDS: This is a real oasis area – the pool is surrounded by an extensive dense forest of tall Livistonia Palms with Pandanus at lower levels. This is home in the early wet season for hundreds of thousands of bats which swarm around sunset into a dense spiralling cloud after taking off to raid nearby fruit growing areas. A local told me many like to swoop down on the river after take-off for a quick sip and lurking crocs have a great time snatching a few. Note - I noticed no evidence of bat droppings at the pool itself or at the resort. These areas were certainly mosquito free however. The attractive RAINBOW SPRING where artesian water bubbles to the surface is about 3 minutes’ walk from the pool. BITTER SPRINGS also has Livistonia Palms/Pandanus but it is not as dense. -BETTER TREKKING: there are tracks leading from the pool area to MATARANKA FALLS (15km one way!) – they read up as riverside but I found some moved considerably off river onto adjacent dirt roads. They pass several pools which were once okay for a dip, but NATIONAL PARKS seems to have given up clearing crocs and have posted NO SWIMMING – CROC WARNING signs. There is also a BOTANIC WALK LOOP. I went about half way to MATARANKA FALLS and found the tracks extremely hot going with way less shade than in the THERMAL SPRINGS area. People wishing to stretch their legs will find BITTER SPRINGS more limited; there is a circuitous track around the swimming area but this can be knocked over in 10/15 mins. -CLOSER ACCOMMODATION and REFRESHENTS/FOOD: the MATERANKA HOMESTEAD RESORT is adjacent the Pool. It is maybe less than a 5 minute walk from the popular BAR/BISTRO to the water. This place has 2 camp grounds, the lower one big and the top one huge. There are also motel rooms and self-service cabins. The backpackers’ section has closed. There is one reasonably sized amenities block in the lower area and two bigger ones in the upper. Both the latter have laundries with machines, tubs and nearby clothes lines (not available at the lower block). One upper block was closed down in low season. There are plenty of trees for shade both areas but little grass. I’m wondering how dusty they get in the busy dry season? THE BAR BISTRO AREA is a pleasant space to spend time – plenty of undercover seating, lotsa fans, big screen TV for news/sports/daily screening of the movie “WE OF THE NEVER NEVER” (the classic novel was set in the early MATARANKA HOMESTEAD originally situated a few km south of the resort, The REPLICA HOMESTEAD built for the movie is on display across the road from the motel area). There is a sizable beer garden with bandstand – a repeat camper told me bands play most afternoons in high season and the area is A REAL SCENE. Drink prices are modest – particularly in Happy Hour. The bistro serves yummy snacks and meals at likewise modest prices. Friendly, helpful staff. Note for non-drivers like me: GREYHOUND’S Darwin-Alice bus diverts in off the highway when needed. But BITTER SPRINGS is not a write-off if you want to stay close-by. BITTER SPRINGS CABINS AND CAMPING is abt 15 minutes’ walk from the water and gets okay user reviews. I was tempted to stay there but I didn’t fancy the 3km walk from GREYHOUND’S Materanka township bus stop in the heat and at dusk. And it sure gets HOT and HUMID in the Top End’s early wet season. Didn’t rain much over my 3 week visit to the greater region though, which locals told me is typical of November. Closer to Materanka township, TERRITORY MANOR MOTEL AND CARAVAN PARK gets rave reviews, but the 2.5km from the Springs is a bit far for non-drivers. -SAFER FOR LITTLE KIDS: the main section of neither place is shallow enough for short-fry to stand but BITTER SPRINGS is deeper. The THERMAL POOL does have a sitting lip at the sides but PARENTS NEED TO CONSTANTLY SUPERVISE LITTLE KIDS – they can get into trouble in the water so quickly. OTHER INFO – NO ADVANTAGE TO EITHER PLACE. -BITTER? I must confess I forgot to take a taste. This is the same water at both – I was drinking the bore water at the adjacent camp ground to the THERMAL POOL: it was way sweet, the opposite of bitter. -SULPHUR? Some reports mention a rotten egg gas smell. I didn’t notice this (but I’m not sensitive to such) – I was under the impression sulphur dioxide was associated with seismic locations, which ELSEY NATIONAL PARK is not. -2 RIVERS: many visitors think BITTER SPRINGS is on the same river as the THERMAL POOL. Not so – the BITTER SPRINGS creek feeds into the LITTLE ROPER R. whereas the THERMAL POOL feeds into the WATERHOUSE R. These watercourses join a km or so past the THERMAL POOL. So sure, it’s the same river SYSTEM, but not the same river. -FREE PARKING AND ENTRY at both. THE REST OF ELSEY NATIONAL PARK The area of the Springs and Thermal Pool takes up only a small section in the north-west of the park: about 10%. Travel guides mention a few other places of interest, but they hardly seem mind blowing – and confined to walking, I didn’t have time to check any out. Hope some of the above stuff will help your planning, gang. Enjoy your visit, this is a nice place.
    Traveled solo
    Written December 11, 2016
  • 1TraveltheWorld
    Alice Springs, Australia12,193 contributions
    Heritage sites and Hot springs
    The Elsey National Park, as all parks in the Top End, is best visited during dry season from May to September. It is one of our favourite stopovers over the many years travelling through from Alice to Darwin. From the western end of the park, the Roper Creek and Waterhouse River merge into the Roper River and provide a great walk. During the wet season, many facilities and access points through the park will be restricted or closed. Other walks include the 4km (one way) walk to Mataranka falls, the 1.5km Botanic walk, the loop walk around Bitter Springs and within the day use area’s there are a few other short river walks. The most well known region of the park, is the Rainbow Springs Thermal Pools (others may know this as, Mataranka Hot Springs). Take the Homestead Road turnoff which is 1.5km south of Mataranka along the Stuart Highway. A temperature of 34C in the pool is very relaxing and the area is surrounded by Livistonia Palms. The Bitter Springs thermal pool is more pleasing although smaller. There are less crowds, it is not as well known, and most importantly, less Flying Foxes and their droppings and smells. The visitor facilities include; picnic areas, wood BBQ’s and toilets at 4 locations: 12 Mile Yards, 4 Mile, Mulurark and Bitter Springs. See attached information sheet and map for more details. http://www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/3142/ElseyNPFS15.pdf
    Traveled as a couple
    Written August 7, 2015
These reviews are the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews for fraud.
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

33 reviews
Very good

Les B
New South Wales, Australia910 contributions
May 2016 • Couples
Location 5/5 About 10 km from Stuart Highway
Service n/a
Value n/a - free
Atmosphere Has several walks however many were closed due to recent late rain and croc risks. We did a few of the ones that were still open and they are your normal run of the mill walks. Some information signs and easy walking even when the temp is in mid 30’s.
Mataranka Thermal Pool – 3/5 - This is the main draw card for the park and is a large pool lined with stone walls and seats for you to enjoy the water. The older people are happy to just float around while the younger people want to jump and bomb in the water. Not a good mix. Have been here twice now (once about 30 years ago) and twice is enough although was refreshing in 35-degree heat.
Bitter Springs - 5/5 - There is a 2nd area in the park accessible but visitors and it is becoming more popular and that is Bitter Springs. This area is more creek than pool. You take your “noodle” and enter at the first set of step. Then float down the creek for about 100 metres and get out at the bridge. Walk back 50 metres on the track and do it again. Just be careful as there are some logs that stick up in the creek. You can hire a noodle from the nearby caravan park (from memory you pay $5 and get $4 back when you return it but check this first). Recommend you take waterproof sandals/shoes/thongs for the swim and walk back. This area is much more natural then Mataranka and better in our opinion.
Overall The National Park is more famous for Mataranka Thermal pools which is in the National Park but has to be accessed via Mataranka Homestead (privately owned) but try Bitter Springs for a better experience.
Written June 21, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Wodonga, Australia319 contributions
Aug 2019
Outstandingly beautiful with minimal human input, this a great and unusual place to visit. Its worth the stop for a look, but when we were there it was completely full of humans, shoulder to shoulder in the water. No for us! The rest of the area is well worth looking at but the caravan park was overcrowded too so we didn't stay.
Written November 30, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Bribie Island, Australia182 contributions
Oct 2018 • Couples
We visited Elsey National Park when Outside Temperature was 42 Degrees C and

Very Dry . Yet Walking through the Prehistoric Palm Trees on the Raised Eco -

Friendly was much Cooler near the Free to Public, Natural Thermal Mineral Pools .

British BBC Film crews were trying to Capture Footage of Crocodiles in the

River catching and Eating the Flying Foxes when they swooped to Scoop a

Mouthful of Water befor they Fly distance to Eat Fruit at night.

The Palm trees look very Prehistoric , Stone age providing Cooler Shade over the

Natural Clear Water in the Very Popular Thermal Mineral Pools .

We stayed 3 Relaxing nights at the Very Cheap Motel Mataranka Homestead next to

the Thermal Springs and Walking Tracks and the Replica of the Original

Mataranka Homestead Nearby and Walked twice a Day to Relax in these Pools .

There are Cheap Cabins ,Motel rooms and Camping and Caravan Dirt Sites and

there are Free Public Toilets and Change Rooms close to Thermal Pools.

Meals and Food ,Cold Drinks at the Homestead Outdoor Bar.

Dress is very Casual ,wear a Hat when walking under Palms ,I got pooped on by

Flying Fox Sleeping overhead after its Night of Feeding on Fruit Trees.

Bring Your Camera , I Pod , Smart Phone for Photos and there is Free WI fi at the

Homestead Bar Area. Exercising in this Natural Thermal Spring Pools Actually

Soothes Body Aches and Relaxes You after Traveling. You visit for a few Relaxing

hours or a Short Holiday . There are more things to see if You Check the

Roadside Information Site between Mataranka Town and the National Park.

We also visited the Local Barramundi Hand feeding at Territory Manor .

Local Business Staff in Mataranka Town are very Helpful and Informative .

This was Our 8th visit to Elsey National Park to Relax when Traveling .

We Plan to Return , Talk to Locals and See even more Next Trip.
Written October 25, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Adelaide, Australia269 contributions
Jan 2021 • Family
Was great. We were lucky enough to have the springs to ourselves. I can see this would be very busy in the high season.
Written January 4, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Brisbane, Australia159 contributions
Oct 2020
Campground looks good although we didn’t stay there. You can easily access most locations by car or go for longer walks if you wish.
Written October 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lorraine L
Tarwin Lower, Australia2,842 contributions
Jul 2018 • Couples
We were driving towards the thermal pools and saw the sign for the Replica Elsey Homestead and decided to have a look through. This is the homestead used in the 1980's film 'We of The Never Never'. The replica is an authentic copy of the original homestead right down to the wood used in the construction. We enjoyed looking through the building and reading the snippets of information about the film and original homestead from newspaper cuttings and information brochures pasted on the walls, and seeing the few items of furniture on display. However, we thought it could have been fitted out a bit more.
Written October 11, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Dublin, Ireland17,589 contributions
Dec 2016 • Couples
Long way from the town of Katherine for a nice park. It was hot when we went and we did not stay long. All parks are great down there but this is about the boundary of where I would drive.
Written December 12, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Big G
Bundaberg, Australia20 contributions
Sep 2015 • Couples
We stayed here at the campgrounds in the national park and visited the hot springs every day for a relaxing dip in the beautiful water. Some of nature's best up in the top end. The campgrounds were quite pleasant and I regularly swam down in the river at the pontoons, although I was the only one as everyone else around was too scared of crocs, which played to my advantage. The river is pristine and crystal clear. Just beautiful. Will return.
Written April 9, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Ray F
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia2,472 contributions
Jul 2015 • Solo
With the outbreak of WW2 the Stuart Highway was realigned and passed through the We of the Never Never homestead plot. The cemetery had to be relocated. This current cemetery contains these plus more recent graves. There are only about 20 graves here but it is interting to wander through them.
Written September 29, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Vikki P
Yeppoon, Australia123 contributions
Aug 2019
Ideal for those who enjoy fishing as there is a boat ramp, it is probably less suited to families as there is nowhere to swim.
Written October 13, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Elsey National Park (Mataranka) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go